Google Tracking Traffic with Maps and Your Smart Phone

google traffic map image

Image via Google Lat Long Blog

One way to drastically reduce pollution from vehicles is to drastically reduce traffic jams. Google is hoping to help accomplish this by getting you and your smart phone to update Google Maps with traffic information. Google Maps has announced it is expanding its traffic conditions feature to include all US cities. So no matter where you are, you can now see real time traffic updates on arterial roads so that as you're trying to avoid jams on the highways, you won't get stuck in jams on the side streets. But...they need your help to make sure all cities actually have traffic data.

See, Google is crowd sourcing the information so you get to not only benefit, but also help out. From their blog:

What if you could do a little something to improve the world during your daily drive to work? Here are a few ideas: tell everybody in the city when you're stuck in slow-moving traffic; warn the drivers on the freeway behind you that they should consider an alternate route; tell the people still at home that they should spend another ten minutes reading the morning news before they leave for work; tell your city government that they might want to change the timing of that traffic light at the highway on-ramp... If you use Google Maps for mobile with GPS enabled on your phone, that's exactly what you can do.

Of course, you can also improve the world by not driving at all, and cycling or walking instead. But if you need to drive, helping to relieve traffic jams is a way to make your city thaaat much less polluted.

"Crowdsourcing traffic gives us a way to harness bits of location data from our users and give it back to them in a form they can use to make impactful decisions that affect their free time, their pocketbooks and the environment. The more people use it, the better it will get," writes Dave Barth, Product Manager for Google Maps.

The participation process is simple - turning on Google Maps on your GPS-enabled phone will allow the site to upload data about how fast you're moving. Combining that with information gathered from other phones around you, Google figures out the traffic conditions. The traffic layers on Google Maps is then constantly updated so anyone can see which routes are least congested.

More details about the layers and process is available at Google's blog.

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